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Knowing The Legalities Of Your CD

Jul 3, 2008
Once you've finished your recording, what now? You have all the right mixes finished and everything is in its place, but there is still work to be done before your CD will truly be finished. By knowing what needs to be done after all of the recording is finished, you'll have a much easier time getting from recording to successfully finished product: your CD.

After the CD is finished recording, the first thing which needs to be done is to send a copy off to the copyright office. This will ensure that no one else can release your music as your own, as well as letting you have a written record of what you have done. Normally, what you'll need to do is to fill out a copyright sheet for the copyright office and send that in along with your CD and a fee for the copyright. Your copyright will last a number of years before expiry; at which point you will need to re-register your copyright.

After doing this, there a number of ways which you can license and register your compositions. ASCAP and BMI are the best places to start. Both of these organizations act as a sort of head office for keeping track of compositions. If anyone else ever performs your compositions, these organizations will send you a performance fee for your compositions. If you have not yet finished your CD, you should nevertheless consider registering with ASCAP or BMI for musician's rights and then send them copies of any music you record to keep a record of this.

Next, you should think about how royalties for the use of your music by others will be administered. If someone wants to use a piece which you have composed for a compilation album, for example, you'll want royalties. There are businesses which take care of royalties and publishing licenses such as Harry Fox; doing this will let you get royalties for each sale of your work by someone else (such as a compilation album maker).

There are other licensing options to think of as well. If another band uses your composition, or your music is used on television or for a commercial, these people must pay you a royalty fee along with a mechanical licensing fee. You still hold the copyright to your music, but basically 'rent' out the song to others for their use. ASCAP and BMI can usually track your composition's appearances as long as you have registered your recordings with them and the person using your work goes through the proper channels to obtain permission to use your music.

Once this registration issue has been handled, you have some choices as to how to go forward with preparing your music for distribution. The growth of the internet as a marketplace and venue for entertainment means that you can approach sales of your music via physical CDs as well as digital distribution; e.g. - downloads.

Digital distribution offers the musician a lot of possibilities, such as websites like SnoCap, CDBaby and IODA. All of these take your music, convert them to MP3 format and distribute your work to websites and online jukeboxes which will make them available to the public. All you have to do to accomplish this is to register your CD or other recordings through this (there is a small fee) and the portal will do the rest of the work.

Whatever sort of music you are recording and no matter how you intend it to be used, experienced and enjoyed, you should always have the legalities of the recording process in mind. This will help you not only to sell your music, but to achieve wider distribution for your work.
About the Author
Kevin Sinclair is the publisher and editor of MusicianHome.com, a site that provides information and articles for musicians at all stages of their development.
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